Party-friendly foods and beverages and Calculating how much food and drink to prepare based on attendance:
When deciding what and how much food to prepare, you must take several things into consideration.
Time-The time of your party will be influenced by the theme of your party (ie formal business dinner party, a baby shower with a light brunch, or late night cocktails and desserts with girlfriends.) Keep in mind that if you are looking into renting a venue to host your event, that the daytime rates may be much lower than nighttime rates. If you are hosting a party during mealtime hours such as between 11am and 1pm or between 5pm and 8pm your guests are going to expect to be fed. If you don’t plan on feeding them, you need to be clear about that on the invitation, writing something like “please join us for cocktails and light hors d’oeuvres.”
Hors d’oeuvres- If your event is more than a few hours, it is nice to serve your guests food in courses. The same goes for if your party takes place at more than one locations, such as a progressive party, or a ceremony and reception. For a typical 1 hour cocktail hour that would take place prior to a full meal, the suggested serving of hors d’oeuvres is 3-5 pieces per person. A popular alternative is a heavy hors d’oeuvres menu in place of a meal. These can be served buffet style on one table, at stations around the room, or can be passed by servers. If you choose to serve only hors d’oeuvres as your meal, plan on feeding your guests 10-15 pieces per person. One of the benefits of passing the hors d’oeuvres, besides it allowing your guests more time for mingling and getting rid of a line at the buffet, is that it slows down the consumption of the food, which in tune, can save you money. If you search the pages of Pinterest right now you will find many ideas for unique finger food hors d’oeuvres options. Some of my current favorites include shot glasses filled with a creamy soup and paired with a slice of toasted baguette or a mini grilled cheese sandwich triangle, Caprese bites or BLT bites, (really anything on a toothpick or skewer) and mini sandwiches like Kobe Beef sliders.
Season- Eat local and eat seasonal. Not only is it more cost effective, but more fresh! But don’t go overboard. Just because you are throwing a Fall gala, doesn’t mean everything on your menu has to be made with pumpkin. Also, think outside of the box. If you are hosting a post-Thanksgiving dinner, your guests may have already had their fill of turkey and mashed potatoes. Try something different such as Pan Seared Duck Breast with savory blackberry sauce accompanied by ginger-glazed turnips, carrots and walnuts. In lieu of pie, treat your guests to Harvest Tapioca with stewed apples, apricots, cinnamon and slivered almonds.
Drinks- There is nothing wrong with having a dry event. No, this doesn’t mean that you don’t give your guests a sip of water, just no alcohol. It may be a daytime event that may not require cocktails, or you may be hosting your event at a church or the home of someone who does not wish to serve or consume alcohol. Do host sodas, iced tea, coffee and water. Or forgo the soda and put out a carafe of lemonade. If you do decide to have an open bar, its ok to limit your hosted tab to wine and beer. This will save you money, and may limit consumption. Go a step further and choose one or two signature cocktails to host. Have fun with these. Base them on the season- a Candy Cane Martini or Egg Nog with Spiced Rum. Its nice to have a non-alcoholic version of these available as well. If you’re going all out, you’ll want to stock your “full bar” with bottles of vodka, rum, whiskey, scotch, tequila, gin and optionally bourbon and brandy. You will want popular mixers such as juices (orange, pineapple and cranberry,) sodas (club, cola and sprite or 7up,) and tonic water. For garnishes, base on any signature cocktails or types of beer served but you are usually safe with lemons, limes and maybe oranges. In general, 40% of drinkers will drink beer, 30% will choose hard alcohol, if available, and 30% will sip wine. In the example of a party for 25, the following are suggestions for quantities of drinks:
For a dry bar- the equivalent to 4 gallons of lemonade or punch or iced tea, etc.
If serving alcohol- 2 gallons of non-alcoholic drinks plus 1.5 alcoholic drinks per guest, per hour (read as a total of 37-38 alcoholic drinks per hour or 15 bottles of beer, 11-12 glasses of wine and 11-12 mixed drinks, per hour.) Please note that you will want to take into account who your friends and family are. If you know that all of your guests are beer drinkers, order more beer, less wine. It might make sense to order a keg rather than bottled beer, if you think that your guests prefer one certain brand of beer. Also, check with your liquor supplier, some stores will let you return unopened alcohol to get your money back. Do not overlook the fact that you will need ice, ice to put in glasses and ice to keep beer and wine cold. Plan on purchasing 1.5-2lbs of ice per person.
Number of guests- Obviously the number of guests that you have will influence your quantity of food needed. Again, based on a party for 25 guests, here is the rundown on what you will need for general food calculations:
37-38 sandwiches or main dish servings
37-38 cups of your side dishes
2 large fruit and veggie platters
Appetizers/Hors d’oeuvres as discussed above